by James DeChene
Recently, the Internal Revenue Service proposed new estate tax regulations that would make transferring interests in family-owned businesses more onerous and costly than under current guidelines.
Proposed Estate Tax Changes
Under current law: Because of the estate and gift tax, many family owned, closely held business owners are challenged in how they can pass on their business interests to their heirs. If a business owner waits to transfer their business at death, the business interest is subject to the estate tax at full fair market value, less the exemption amount.
A popular technique is to gift small ownership pieces over time, such as 10% of a business in one year. That interest is a “minority interest.” The value for tax purposes is also discounted relative to fair market value because control remains with the older generation.
With multiple transfers over time, the entire business can be “gifted” at a minority interest discount. The total amount subject to tax is substantially less than if the entire interest were taxed at death at fair market value.
IRS Proposal: The Section 2704 regulations would eliminate the discount applied to these “minority” gift transfers for closely held, family owned businesses. This is causing a significant amount of concern for family-owned businesses throughout the country, and many are trying to plan around this consequence before the regulations become final.
This is one more example of a major regulatory change, like the recently proposed Treasury Section 385 regulations, that are being attempted at being finalized before the calendar year end and a new administration comes in. We will continue to monitor and provide further updates as they happen.